The Tánaiste has said that tourism in Ireland will be negatively impacted as the war in Ukraine – and the housing of tens of thousands of refugees in hotels – continues.
Around 20 per cent of hotel rooms across the country are being used to accommodate Ukrainians who have left the war-torn country.
Leo Varadkar said it is likely that the tourism sector next spring and summer will not be as good as hoped.
“I think that the war in Ukraine is going to have a negative impact on tourism,” he added.
“It’s not just the fact that maybe 10 per cent or 20 per cent of hotel rooms will be used to accommodate Ukrainians, there’s also the increase in air fares, for example, and reduced consumer sentiments.
“You would think it likely that next spring and summer won’t be as good for the tourism sector as maybe we had hoped it would be.
“But I wouldn’t discount the fact that one of the biggest difficulties the sector has is in finding staff.
“Still, when I meet new people in business, whether it’s Dublin Chamber or Dungarvan Chamber, finding staff is as big an issue, if not a greater issue than the energy costs and it is good to see that so many Ukrainians have been issued with PPS numbers and in around 10,000 have entered the workforce, mainly in hospitality and retail.”
The Government is struggling to find accommodation for Ukrainians arriving in Ireland after it reached its capacity last weekend, leading to some refugees sleeping at Dublin Airport.
Disused army barracks and modular homes are among the measures being considered by Government to help plug the accommodation crisis for refugees.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said communities that welcome in many Ukrainians should be supported by Government funding.
The Fine Gael leader said he wants to see extra money going into communities as facilities and provisions are under pressure due to an increase in the local population.
He said communities, including many in Donegal, Kerry, Clare and parts of Dublin, should “gain” from welcoming in so many refugees.
The community fund could be used to improve schools, public transport and sporting facilities.
“Irish people have welcomed Ukrainians into their communities, which is absolutely correct. But there are parts of the country where there are a lot of Ukrainians, for obvious reasons, because there’s a lot of accommodation there,” Mr Varadkar added.
“I think in recognition of the fact that so many Irish communities have welcomed so many Ukrainians into their communities, that there should be some community gain for that.
“It might be improvements in schools, it might be improvements to public transport, it might be improvements to community services, and it does already exist.
“I think as this crisis is going to continue, and as it becomes prolonged that we need to scale that up.”
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said there is provision in the budget for this type of spending.
He said the government wants to acknowledge that many communities have “opened their doors and their hearts” to so many Ukrainian families and individuals.
“We made an overall provision of around €2 billion, much that of course will be needed directly for the accommodation provision, for social welfare supports, for health supports and so on,” Mr McGrath added.
“We are working closely with Minister [Heather] Humphreys in particular, in relation to what we can do to assist communities.
“We want it to be practical, to be tangible, to make a difference to them, because we recognise that there is strain on service provision and the provision of facilities in many communities that have taken so many people and we are going to have to support them.
Tánaiste @LeoVaradkar & Minister @mmcgrathtd announced details of the €200m Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme
Funding under the scheme will assist viable but vulnerable manufacturers & internationally traded services which will be available through @Entirl & @UdarasnaG pic.twitter.com/06WK16T5yE
— Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (@DeptEnterprise) October 27, 2022
“There is a willingness across Government to do more to support those communities and I’m confident that the resources are there within the overall.”
He made the comments as the Government details of a new €200 million scheme to help companies struggling with rising energy costs.
The Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme will assist viable but vulnerable firms of all sizes in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors.
It will help firms suffering liquidity problems, and also help those impacted by severe rises in energy costs.